There are so many exciting sights in Cambodia that you’ll hardly find yourself without things to do. Just scrambling around the ruins at Angkor can keep you busy for days if not weeks, or you can climb up for a bird’s-eye view of the complex by hot-air balloon. The country is beautiful, and even more incredible for rising out of the intense history of war and genocide. Take time to visit major sites that give you a glimpse into the history of the country, but also make sure you get to meet some of the friendly and positive people who have weathered through the history.
Cook Khmer-style curry or other cuisine.
There are plenty of Khmer cooking classes in the capital, held in English or French. The Frizz restaurant on Sisowath Quay operates some of the most popular courses and will have you creating an amok fish curry to die for.
Explore the temples at Angkor
You could spend oodles of time watching the sunrises and the sunsets at this amazing temple complex. Especially if you’re interested in photography, there is so much to see and so many nooks to explore. Hire a guide for a day or two to hear the stories behind the temples.
Fire a rocket launcher or M-16.
You won’t find a lot of places in the world where you can go crazy firing weaponry. There are two venues that offer this bizarre form of entertainment, one in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap.
Get high over Angkor.
The best way to see Angkor by far is from the air. It’s a spectacular sight that you will remember for the rest of your life. The tethered hot-air balloon offers a budget way to soar above the temples for about 15 minutes; or you can go all out with a helicopter tour.
Hold you nose at Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump.
Your entire outlook on life will change in this one visit. Shocking, alarming and filled with despair, this garbage dump is an example of how many of Cambodia’s children spend their time – sifting through garbage all day long to survive. If your kids complain about going to school, they probably won’t after they see this. Donations can also be made to the humanitarian organisation Pour Sourire D’un Enfant at their onsite office.
Ride an elephant.
If you’ve never ridden an elephant, there’s no experience quite like it. The activity is most popular in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. Be sure to go with a reputable company and take a guide as land mines and other dangers may spoil your day. You can also ride an elephant around Angkor or at the zoo on Mekong Island, a daytrip from the capital.
Take a sunset cruise along the Mekong river.
One-hour cruises are available and will give you great insight on the lives of the people living on and around the river. The sunset is especially brilliant from the boat and this is a relaxing way to end your day.
Visit the Memorial at Choeung Ek.
Located 15kms from Phnom Penh, this is a memorial to those who died in the infamous Killing Fields. Here you can view around 8,000 skulls arranged by sex and age behind a glass panel.
Visit the Stone and Woodcarving School in Siem Reap.
This is a great place to see how stone and wood is carved into reproductions of the ancient Khmer temple carvings. Prices are cheap and you’ll be supporting a good cause.
Volunteer for a good cause or donate blood.
There are numerous NGOs and charity organisations doing good work in Cambodia. Additionally, only about one-third of the country’s requirement for blood is being met, so you can make a donation at the Cambodian Red Cross to help.
Watch traditional Khmer theatre.
A few different venues in the city offer the chance to watch Khmer performances with the most popular being the Aspara Theatre at the Angkor Village Resort, which is also a restaurant. The evening shows feature a wealth of traditionally dressed performers, meaning there is lots of gold finery on display and the chance to experience classical
Khmer music and dance.
Watch traditional Khmer kickboxing.
Khmer traditional boxing, or Pradal Serey, has made a huge comeback since it was banned by the Khmer Rouge. The biggest fights are held at the Olympic Stadium, but you can find smaller bouts at other venues too, so ask around.